Kirk Herbstreit frustrated with growing trend of opt-outs: 'I’m worried about the sport overall'
The 2020 season has seen a troubling trend thanks to the NCAA allowing athletes to opt out for personal reasons without recourse.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has seen this growing trend and is troubled by it. In Herbstreit’s mind, players are making the choice that if they’re not playing in a major bowl like the College Football Playoff, then sit out the rest of the season, and get ready for the NFL. Herbstreit shared his latest thoughts on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.
“I’m worried about the sport overall,” he said. “I’m worried about the focus strictly on the playoff, that if you’re not one of the playoff teams, ‘Why does it even matter, who cares? Let’s just opt out, let’s get ready for the NFL.'”
The difficult perspective is to lose sight of pretty good teams in favor of dominant teams. Or teams that started slow and were ignored, but have since come on strong. He gave an example of Iowa, which started 0-2, but have since won 4 games in a row.
“Even when you played, which wasn’t all that long ago, imagine playing at Michigan and let’s just say you’re 8-3 or 9-2 but you’re not in the playoff race. Part of my sensitivity to the world we live in is, that’s BS,” Herbstreit said, then referred to distractions at Iowa earlier following a lawsuit levied against the university by a group of former players and about the future of head coach Kirk Ferentz. “To me, that’s one of the great stories of college football (this year) and we live in this era of, ‘Does it have anything to do with the Playoff? Nope, OK, who cares.’ And if that’s the world we’re going to live in in college football, that’s like March Madness. If you’re in March Madness, fill out the bracket and we’re gonna get excited. But do you care about the NIT? No, unless it’s maybe your school.”
While some may dismiss his comments as being too focused on this season being in the middle of a pandemic, Herstreit sees it happening next season and beyond past concerns about COVID-19. His concern is that this trend will continue when the pandemic is over. Ultimately, he said, it’s the players that lose out.
“That’s what college football’s turning into with this playoff. If you’re in the Playoff, it’s March Madness, and if you’re not in the playoff — even if you’re 9-2 — good riddance. Kids are opting out of Rose Bowls, kids are opting out of Sugar Bowls. It’s like, what in the hell is happening to our sport?”
Getting the true college experience and not worrying as much about the NFL is what he’d like to see.
“If we move into 2021 and we have a vaccine and everything is back to normal and that becomes the new norm, players opting out — once your team is out of the race, you’re out — I would feel pain and sorrow for the players,” he said. “Part of what makes college football great is what you learn playing it. Being selfless, learning how to go through adversity as a group, learning about perseverance.”
Herbstreit said he would like players to think more long term, such as 20 to 30 years in the future, and not just about 3 years in college, and then an NFL career that is most likely 5 years or less.